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Mars Planet

SCIENCE
June 27, 2008 | John Johnson Jr., Times Staff Writer
The first chemistry results from Mars' northern plain reveal an environment more hospitable to life than some scientists had predicted, one that might allow future colonists to grow crops as familiar on Earth as asparagus and green beans. Strawberries, though, might be tougher, Phoenix mission scientists said Thursday. "We're flabbergasted by this data," said Sam Kounaves, the lead scientist for the wet chemistry experiment on the Phoenix spacecraft, which landed May 25 on Mars.
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SCIENCE
June 20, 2008 | John Johnson Jr., Times Staff Writer
Images from NASA's Phoenix lander released late Thursday appeared to confirm the presence of buried ice, the first evidence that the spacecraft landed in the right spot last month to find water on Mars. Pictures taken of a trench dug earlier in the week by the lander's nearly 8-foot-long robotic arm showed that eight small, whitish chunks of material at the base of the trench had disappeared by Thursday.
NATIONAL
June 8, 2008 | From Times Wire Reports
The first sample of Martian dirt dumped onto the opening of the Phoenix lander's tiny testing oven failed to reach the instrument, and scientists said they would devote a few days to trying to determine the cause. Photos released by the University of Arizona team overseeing the mission showed a scoopful of dirt sitting on and around the open oven door, but none of it made it past a screen and into the tiny chamber.
SCIENCE
May 16, 2008 | John Johnson Jr., Times Staff Writer
Mars' north pole, like a French parfait, comes in layers. Scientists analyzing radar images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft have found as many as seven distinct layers of ice and dust beneath the north pole. Roger J. Phillips, a scientist with the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., said the layering was probably caused by changes in the planet's orbit over the last 4 million years.
SCIENCE
March 26, 2008 | John Johnson Jr., Times Staff Writer
NASA rescinded a directive Tuesday that would have forced millions of dollars in cuts from the popular Mars rover program, saying the budget reductions had not been cleared with NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin. James Green, head of NASA's Planetary Science Division, last week sent a private communication to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory ordering $16 million in cuts to the Mars program, including $4 million in rover operations this year.
SCIENCE
December 21, 2007 | John Johnson Jr., Times Staff Writer
Talk about your cosmic pileups. An asteroid similar to the one that flattened forests in Siberia in 1908 could plow into Mars next month, scientists said Thursday. Researchers attached to NASA's Near-Earth Object Program, who sometimes jokingly call themselves the Solar System Defense Team, have been tracking the asteroid since its discovery in late November. The scientists, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge, put the chances that it will hit the Red Planet on Jan.
SCIENCE
December 21, 2007 | By John Johnson Jr, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
Talk about your cosmic pileups. An asteroid similar to the one that flattened forests in Siberia in 1908 could plow into Mars next month, scientists said Thursday. Researchers attached to NASA's Near-Earth Object Program, who sometimes jokingly call themselves the Solar System Defense Team, have been tracking the asteroid since its discovery in late November. The scientists, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, put the chances that it will hit the Red Planet on Jan. 30 at about 1 in 75. A 1-in-75 shot is "wildly unusual," said Steve Chesley, an astronomer with the Near-Earth Object office, which routinely tracks about 5,000 objects in Earth's neighborhood.
SCIENCE
December 12, 2007 | John Johnson Jr., Times Staff Writer
With their third Martian winter fast approaching, the twin rovers patrolling opposite sides of the Red Planet are showing distinct signs of age, even as they uncover fresh evidence that the planet was once hospitable to rudimentary life forms. In fact, Spirit made one of its most significant discoveries because of its deteriorating health.
SCIENCE
September 22, 2007 | From Times Staff and Wire Reports
NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft has discovered entrances to seven possible caves on the slopes of a Martian volcano, researchers said Friday. Very dark, nearly circular features ranging in diameter from about 328 to 820 feet puzzled researchers who found them in images taken by NASA's Mars Odyssey and Mars Global Surveyor orbiters.
SCIENCE
September 12, 2007 | Amber Dance and John Johnson Jr., Times Staff Writers
After surviving the harshest dust storm in its nearly four-year trek on Mars, the rover Opportunity got back to work Tuesday, dipping its toe into 260-foot-deep Victoria Crater. Opportunity rolled its six wheels about 10 feet into the crater, then backed out in a maneuver its handlers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge dubbed "the hokeypokey." As it backed out, Opportunity slipped on a sandy ripple at the crater's edge and halted, said rover project manager John Callas.
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